In our relationship, we have rules that are carved in stone and some that are written in pencil. The main one carved into stone is communication. And boy can that stone hurt when it is thrown at you when you aren’t communicating effectively.
I think that is the key to communicating within the bounds of an open relationship; not just communication but effective communication is critical.
Let me give you an example:
Back in March, I went on an overnight play date. This was the second one I had been on in about 4 months. What was ironic about the whole thing was the fact that G had facilitated this date. Yet, something was off. There were too many signs that things were not fine, yet every time I asked what was wrong, I was told it was “fine”. I knew the entire drive home that things were not fine, but did not know how bad it was until I got there.
I poked the bear with a stick. I admit it. But I was to a point where I wanted to just get it over with. I knew he was not happy. I had no idea why. And I didn’t want to leave it alone. Just seemed like it would get messier with time.
So what was the issue? Looking back on it, we would both agree that these issues were all his – and really had nothing to do with me. But, because he did not articulate his issues – because he didn’t want me to have a bad time – or want me to feel I had something to solve – he kept them to himself. In hindsight, he would agree that it was the wrong thing to do, but he didn’t want to have the conversation. The conversation wasn’t going to be easy, and since he decided it was his issue, he kept it to himself. Never, as we discovered, a good thing.
So what was his issue? Mainly jealousy. He had hoped to find someone that he could have overnights with – extended play dates with – but he hadn’t yet. While he did not want to begrudge me the chance to have one myself, he found it hard to not be envious of it. And that sort of percolated until it overflowed, and I got burned.
Figuring this out was not fun either. Going back to the “effective” part of the communication to find the reason for that one. He was dealing with his feelings – a thing boys are horrible about (inside joke) – and he was having issues articulating them. It was much easier to say “you did this” or “you did that” instead of saying “I feel …” . As the listener, I spent more time trying to figure out what I did wrong – getting defensive – getting upset. I mean, the person you love knows how to hit you where it hurts when they are hurting. And his aim was quite good over the course of several days. At one point, I did wonder if things were going to close again. It was that serious of a dialog.
In the end, I finally said something that made him snap out of it. I had finally gotten my message across in a way that made him realize that he was not truly communicating with me. He was attacking me – and in turn, we attacked each other.
Clearly, we made it through. It was a bit touchy for a while, but what we have learned is that having complicated, hard conversations with each other is necessary. We know how to say certain things or when to say “I’m upset, but I need to not talk about this right now because it will come across as thought I’m unhappy with the fact you went and spent time with a playmate – and that isn’t the real issue.” And the person hearing such statements has learned to push aside their reaction of defensiveness, and listen and hear what the other one is saying.
It’s funny because there are a few things that we tend to do to each other when we are feeling insecure about things between us. Things that usually escalate things inadvertently when the one feeling insecure is trying to feel better. The conversations we now have about this make me laugh and wish that we could have had these conversations years ago. Conversations like, “Honey, I know you said you called me to see how I was. Can we admit that you were calling because you needed to hear things were okay? I mean, you really didn’t care how I was doing – you cared that I wasn’t mad at you for some reason, right?” His response was “you’re right, that is why I called. I should have just been honest about that instead of turning it back on you like I was really calling to talk.” A year ago – two years ago – 19 years ago – we could never have had a conversation like that.
A year ago, I preached communication as the item written in stone. But being effective in how one communicates is not just something for the bedroom. It is something we need to practice – consciously practice – along with listening. But listening…..listening could be a whole other post.
As can communication with playmates, but that’s yet another topic.